Ahh Brugge, the romantic historical town in the northwestern part of Belgium. Brugge was not on my radar until I moved to Europe, and it was as if The Google knew I wanted to see the world, because Brugge popped up on my suggested browser a few months after I arrived. I subconsciously tucked this popular destination in my brain for a later date, and that later date arrived after a series of unfortunate events.
You see, I was scheduled to take a trip to Spain for the month of August with my two roommates. We had requested time off for this trip months in advance, booked a rental car, found wonderful Air B & B’s, and did extensive research – aka watched The Cheetah Girls 2. I was ready to strut like I meant it through the streets of Barcelona.
A few days before our scheduled departure, we received an e-mail advising us there was a scheduled strike at the Barcelona airport the day we were meant to arrive, and we were informed our flight might be cancelled. Um, what? There wasn’t much we could do, so we waited to see what the fate of our trip would be the day of departure.
I suppose I should be thankful that we got notice a day and a half before our travel day (instead of the day of) that our flight was indeed cancelled, and truth be told I didn’t really want to go to Spain anyway, but it’s been over a week and I’m still awaiting my refund. I’m a bit perturbed by the entire situation, but it was out of my control.
With some quick cat like reflex planning, we planned our backup trip in an hour. My roommates asked me,” Switzerland or Belgium?” Without hesitation I screamed “BELGIUM” and my subconscious vision of Brugge reappeared into my frontal lobe. I told them I wanted to see Brugge, and I wanted to see Gent, and badda boom badda bing we officially shifted gears towards Belgium.
Just when we thought everything was squared away, I got notified that there were no more rental cars at our local Europcar (after we already booked places to sleep in Belgium), which brought momentary panic to us all. We decided to take a train to Munich to rent a car from the airport, and drive it back to Garmisch the day before our trip.
It took five hours round trip.
This was almost the trip that wasn’t thanks to all the hoops we had to jump through, but perseverance gave us a lovely trip to Belgium I shan’t soon forget. Brugge is just as fairytale like as they say, and it’s no wonder this city brings flocks of tourists to see its cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and Venice like canals.
The drive to Brugge was brutal, and as the only driver (shoutout to being an old lady and not having an extra rental car charge) I was feeling the 12 hours of open road hard by the time we reached our hostel. We stayed at Hostel Europa, which had free parking (what I cared about), was less than a 2km walk to the city center (what they cared about), and had free breakfast (what everyone cared about.)
By the time we started our following day in the city, I had forgotten all about the long drive west. We didn’t have much planned for this city, other than to find some colorful houses, eat a waffle, eat fries, eat chocolate, find the sheep, and find the windmills. We stumbled upon a free walking tour at just the right time, and we were able to learn some history about the city.
After we did the walking tour, we went to eat at House of Waffles per the suggestion of our tour guide. I was intrigued by the idea of savory waffles, but sadly this BLT waffle wasn’t worth the splurge that comes with eating gluten for me. My only regret of this trip was that I ate a savory waffle instead of a sweet waffle. I didn’t want to splurge too many times, so I didn’t eat anymore waffles on this trip.
I should have known better, waffles are meant to be sweet.
The waffles provided just enough energy to wander the residential streets of Brugge in order to find the sheep. Tucked away from the tourist streets is a small park called Hof De Jonge. This park is home to local sheep that graze on the grass, and is known as one of the hidden spot to visit in Brugge. Our trip to Belgium occurred during one of the countries few heat waves, and the 90 degree air had the sheep hiding for respite.
I turned the corner and was saddened to find no sheep in the park. Just when I lost all hope, I saw one lone sheep running towards the shade. Success.
After the sheep it was off to the windmills. Four historic windmills are left standing along the ramparts of one of the canals in Brugge. In the 16th century there were upwards of 23 mills in the area, and the remaining four offered a break from the bustling city center. My roommates humored me on my walk across Brugge to find these mills, and the last one of the four offered a small view of the city below.
At the top of the windmill stairs were two local girls enjoying a beer and escaping from the late afternoon sun. I couldn’t help but think this was a terrible place to drink alcohol because of how sketchy the stairs were climbing up and down…does this make me old?
I used to frolic in the face of danger and now my fear radar is continuously maxed out.
Our final “scheduled” adventure was to take a boat tour on the canal. This was a cheap ten euro adventure where we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know after our free walking tour, but it was fun to see the city from the view of the water. Plus our trilingual captain was nice to look at.
The rest of our evening was free to wander and refuel. After my waffle lunch I wanted something “safe” for dinner, but continued the vacation mindset and ordered my chicken with fries. When in Belgium. Did you know, fries originated in Belgium?
American soldiers stationed in Belgium were first introduced to French fries during World War I. As the official language of the Belgian army was French, soldiers nicknamed the delicious fried potatoes “French fries.” The name stuck, and decades later we’re still giving credit to the wrong country.
Brugge is a lovely city, and I’m thankful to have crossed it off my list, and I’m thankful for the mysterious way God works. Had it not been for that Barcelona strike, we’d have gone to Spain instead. Not to say Spain wouldn’t have been enjoyable, but something tells me Belgium is more my style.
Regardless of where we went, I was just happy to spend a week with my roommates. I am thankful that we not only live well together, but we’re close friends too.
Q: Would you have called it quits after the cancelled flight and no local rental cars, or adapted the “where there’s a will there’s a way” mindset?